10 July 2008

Literary New York City (Mainly)

I may have taken all of these images of New York City, although I'd have been unaware of the existence of most of them without Kevin Walsh's Forgotten New York, a real mine of information on many of the more obscure aspects of New York City's history. One of the most interesting things about this book is that it doesn't just cover what many people – North Americans included – often refer to as New York City: Manhattan tout court: Manhattan, of course, is only one New York's five boroughs: all too often, we forget that Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx are also a part of New York City.

Many thanks, too, to my partner Penny Atkinson, who assisted me in finding many of these places.


'We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry'

Edna St Vincent Millay's famous words, from her poem 'Recuerdo', evoke the hedonism of the 1920s. She is speaking, of course, of the Staten Island ferry, still one of the greatest free rides in the world.</> This is a view of Manhattan financial district from the ferry.

It is worth exploring Staten Island itself, and a frequent train service will take you to the bottom of the island in about forty-five minutes.

In the early part of the previous century, the land on which these structures now stand in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, near the town of Flushing in Queens, was an ash disposal heap. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald describes it as 'a fantastic form where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens'. That quotation is my excuse for showing these three weird images. New York's two World Fair's were in 1939 and 1964, and the remains of these occasions still, gloriously, litter the park.

The above structure was part of New York State Pavilion. This was the Tent of Tomorrow, showing the sixteen 100-foot columns which supported the roof. Sky Streak capsule lifts took people to the top.

Rocket Thrower, showing a giant hurling a rocket through a constellation.


Above is Theodore Roszak's Forms in Transit, one of the most difficult exhibits to find.

The bust above is of Harriet Beecher Stowe, and is one of a number of writers, politicians, etc, in the Hall of Fame at the Bronx Community College.

This statue is in a prominent position, in the Literary Walk in Central Park, Manhattan. Here, Shakespeare, Robert Burns and Walter Scott stand: all very famous men. Above, though, is a forgotten man of American poetry: Fitz–Greene Halleck (1790–1867). Rather than paraphrase someone else's description of Halleck's work and life, the reader is best directed to The Fitz–Greene Halleck Society web pages.

A rather odd thing for a person from Nottingham, England, to find a plaque dedicated to fellow Nottinghamian William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, in Battery Park, Lower Manhattan.


This blog supports Barack Obama in his battle to become President of the United States: at least he didn't vote for the war on Iraq, and he represents hope to so many in a deeply divided country. But he has a fine juggling act to perform, and he also supports the neo-liberal ethos which causes poverty: even if he wins two terms, how much will he have achieved in that time?

The photo above and the one below were taken in Alphabet City, Manhattan.


Poe Cottage in the Bronx is the farmhouse where Edgar Allan Poe lived between 1846 and 1849. Now a museum, the building was closed for general renovations when visited in June 2008.

Almost impossible to read because situated so high up the wall, this plaque in the Upper West Side at Broadway and 84th Street marks the site where Poe spent the summer of 1844 on a farm. The building is a café.


Patchin Place, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, once home to several literary figures, among them E. E. Cummings and Djuna Barnes.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, is now a shadow of its former self (and still under threat), but many New Yorkers continue to flock to the beaches. The occasion here was the Mermaid Parade, 21 June 2008. Literary references? How about Styron's Sophie's Choice?

Inevitably, Brooklyn Bridge evokes thoughts of Whitman's ferry crossing and Hart Crane's poem, but also, of course, the wonderful Marianne Moore.

The entrance to New York Public Library, home of, among many others, manuscripts by such diverse writers as Shelley and Kerouac.

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